April Principal's Perspective

April 2008

Dear Foothill Families,

The Asset Approach - 40 Elements of Healthy Development

Recently, our district was visited by Clay Roberts from the Search Institute, an independent nonprofit group that strives to “provide leadership, knowledge and resources to promote healthy children, youth and communities.” Central to this organization’s work is something called the “Asset Approach,” a framework of 40 developmental assets, “which are positive experiences and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring and responsible.”

Clay spoke to district administrators, counselors and PTA representatives about these 40 developmental assets and explained how the asset approach works. The assets are divided into two main groups: external and internal. Internal assets fall under categories of support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time. External assets include commitment to learning, positive values, social competencies and positive identity. Each asset type has a number of specific assets which make up the complete 40 developmental assets. (Please see the following web site for more information: http://www.search-institute.org/).

Clay described the partnership between home, school and community that enables effective asset building to occur successfully. He calls this asset approach a movement and says, “Tell me what you do, and I’ll tell what you believe.” The emphasis in building assets lies in developing people, not programs, something that we as a school already firmly subscribe. Our role as a community is to build these assets in our children as “regardless of gender, ethnic heritage, economic situation or geographic location, these assets both promote positive behaviors and attitudes and help protect young people from many different problem behaviors. As assets increase, high-risk behaviors, including alcohol and drug use, violence, sexual activity decrease. In turn, “thriving behaviors” such as leadership, good health, valuing diversity and success in school increase. There is strong evidence that there is a direct correlation between the number of assets that kids have and their levels of achievement in school. Certain assets also have a greater impact than others. Search Institute research illustrates that for every one asset gained, students see an increase in 0.2 grade points.

Our district is committed to the ideas suggested by the asset approach. At Foothill, we are developing our plan for implementation. If you are not already familiar with the 40 Developmental Assets, I am sure you will be in the months ahead as we introduce the ideas and ways of working that are encouraged and recommended by the Search Institute. Take a look at the web site above for more information. Many of these assets seem just plain common sense. However, Clay says that 40 percent of adults who know what to do regarding asset building don’t actually do it. Our task is to narrow the gap between knowing and doing. Yes, these are simple ideas, but we need to make a commitment to building them in each other and in our children in order to strengthen our community even further.

Kia ora! (Be well)

John Dwyer